Ask the Expert: Andy Robertshaw, Military Historian

Andy Robertshaw, Military Historian

Andy Robertshaw, Military Historian, will be answering your questions on World War One on Monday 14 April 2014 between  2-3pm BST.

Andy Robertshaw

You can post questions before the Q & A session, on 14 April, or you can converse in real time with our expert. You can use the comment box below to post a question, or you can use twitter with the hashtag  #mdyask.

Comments have to be moderated, to protect the blog from spam, so if your comment doesn’t appear straight away, don’t worry. We’ll get to it as quickly as we can.

If you have a problem submitting questions, either in the comment box, or via twitter, please email your questions to gillian.waters@ymt.org.uk

If you have ideas for subjects you’d like to see us cover in future, or would like to take questions yourself, please get in contact with us and let us know.

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13 Comments

I work in a new volunteer run museum which deals with the sport of Hockey. We are currently researching a number of pre-war England Internationals and what happened to them. We have come across references to the sport being organised behind the lines mainly by the Women’s Nursing Corps as a means of raising morale and increasing fitness. Do you have any pointers as to where we could further our research into this subject of this sport or any?

Marcus D.Wardle March 19th, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Unfortunately we have had to postpone this live Q&A- we will rearrange the date as soon as we can!

Gillian Waters March 21st, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Good news- we have rearranged the Q & A for Monday 14 April!

Gillian Waters April 7th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Dear Andy Robertshaw, I’ve done some work on a story about the detention of so-called ‘enemy aliens’ in WW1, and how they were incarcerated and it would be helpful if you can tell me how i can find out more about what happened to the property of the detainees, in particular a business man, described in the newspapers as operating out of Coffee Yard. My understanding is that the Public Trustee was given the job of acquiring and liquidating the assets of ‘enemy aliens’ under the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1914, and the TNA hold these records, but i’m interested to find out if there are any records relating to Enemy Aliens that are archived locally? Any information will be gratefully received!

Helen Weinstein April 14th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Helen,

I am not an expert on the Home Front, which is oftern neglected in the study of the Great War. A good starting point would be local newsapaer libraries. News about ‘aliens’ both real and imaginary were common and may indiacte the juristriction under which cases were examined. The next level would be court records if they are available. The legal side of all of this may be found in the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA).

Andy Robertshaw April 14th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Dear Andy,

I’ve done some research on the First World War, primarily focussed on the Home Front and the impact that the war had on the residents of York. I’m interested in the attitudes of the public in relation to the fairly swift requisitioning of buildings, provisions, and animals for the war effort. Although you mention that you’re not an expert on this area, can you offer any information about how people responded to these actions: was it largely understood and supported, or were people resistant and resentful towards the war/government as a result?

Thank you,
Sam

Sam Johnson April 14th, 2014 at 2:31 pm

@curatorLucy asks “#mdyask Family/friends often seem to feature in photos e.e Egytpt – but how easy was it for civilians to travel during to theatres of war?”

Gillian Waters April 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Hi Andy,

I’m really interested in attitudes to black and Asian colonial soldiers who were stationed in Britain and wondered if you could point to any resources to find out more about their experiences. I’ve read Richard Smith’s book Jamaican Volunteers in the First World War which is great and Rozina Vikram’s book has some interesting facts on the Indian soldiers stationed at Brighton but was wondering if you could highlight any additional material, particularly that which covers the period in the first few years of the war. Many thanks!

Maria Lewis April 14th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I work in a new volunteer run museum which deals with the sport of Hockey. We are currently researching a number of pre-war England Internationals and what happened to them. We have come across references to the sport being organised behind the lines mainly by the Women’s Nursing Corps as a means of raising morale and increasing fitness. Do you have any pointers as to where we could further our research into this subject of this sport or any?
There is photographic evidence of women at the War Front and at home orgaising team games. There are many refernces to sport in ‘A short History of Queen Mary’s Army Auxilary Corps’ and I have seen images of ‘ladies’ foot ball teams at shell factories. I would suggest that you look in War Diaries, held at TNA, or any published unit histories. A V.A. D in France would be a good source. for photographs the IWM’s phot archive is superb.

Andy Robertshaw April 14th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I’ve done some research on the First World War, primarily focussed on the Home Front and the impact that the war had on the residents of York. I’m interested in the attitudes of the public in relation to the fairly swift requisitioning of buildings, provisions, and animals for the war effort. Although you mention that you’re not an expert on this area, can you offer any information about how people responded to these actions: was it largely understood and supported, or were people resistant and resentful towards the war/government as a result?

Thank you,
Sam

Sam. As in every period of history attitides vared greatly. some people through themselves into the ‘War Effort’ and other complained and did the least possible. One aspect of the requisting of animals that needs to be clear is that large numer of young people recall that their horse was ‘taken’ by the army. In most cases this was beciause the adults in the family, usually the father, had taken a subsidy from the War Office which meant in the event of war the horse would be ‘called up’. Rather than take the blame he told the children that the horse was ‘take’ by the soldiers. As I mentioned the home front was covered by DORA, but although this limited the time the pubs could be open and the strength of beer due legal process was necessary and the Army could not simply requisition property without legal authority. As can be imageined mayn people lost out in his process and some pieces of land remained in the hands of the military for years after the war. This was far from popular/

Andy Robertshaw April 14th, 2014 at 3:13 pm

@curatorLucy asks “#mdyask Family/friends often seem to feature in photos e.e Egytpt – but how easy was it for civilians to travel during to theatres of war?”

Gillian Waters April 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

It is remarkable that civilains do appear in photographs either because they were working or living locally or becuase they were directly emplued by the War Office. I have come across civials employed by the Army Ordnance Corps at Woolwich who were sent to France on the outbreak of war. Although not in uniform they received the same rations and allowances as soldiers but were never in uniform. This must have happened else where in the world. My recent purchase is a photograph, progrmmae and typed description of a battlefield tour of the Western Front carried out by the Labour Party, all male, in March 1918. they were issued with helmets and gas masks but otherwise were identical to politicans at home. The final amsing tale is the British Ambassador to Belgium who took his son on a battlefield visit to ypres in 1915. So he would ‘fit in’ the lad wore his Scout uniform during his tour of the trenches!

Andy Robertshaw April 14th, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Hi Andy,

I’m really interested in attitudes to black and Asian colonial soldiers who were stationed in Britain and wondered if you could point to any resources to find out more about their experiences. I’ve read Richard Smith’s book Jamaican Volunteers in the First World War which is great and Rozina Vikram’s book has some interesting facts on the Indian soldiers stationed at Brighton but was wondering if you could highlight any additional material, particularly that which covers the period in the first few years of the war. Many thanks!

Maria Lewis April 14th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Maria,

Indian soldiers were treated for wound and sickness on the south coast and although the Royal Pavillion is a well know hospital for soldiers from the region which is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh there were many larger hospitals in and around Brighton. The Indain Corps was withdrawn from the Western Front in late 1915 so Indian serviement were rarely seen after that period. Relations with the locals was good although there were worries about ‘realtions’ between Indian soldiers and local women. Relatively few servicemen from the West Indies arrived in the UK, they went straight to Frnace. Those that did so were not subject to the worst sort of racial discimination that followed in WW2. One reason for this is suggested to be the ‘colour bar’ in US Forces when they first arrived in Northern Ireland and then the mainland later that year. Contingents from the then ‘Empire’ had visited London for coronations and Jubillee events so the metropolitan area was used to a multi-cultural army. It is worth saying that some of the 90,000 strong Chinese Labour Corps did arrive in the uK and were used on improving flood defences in East Anglia and it is believed that not all went home. It must be remebered that in 1914 Britain had existing communities of asian, black and other minorities who linked to seafaring. Black soldiers can be seen in photographs of units from the south Wales sea ports and others such as Walter Tull came from the West Indies. All in all Britain had the most multicultural army of any invoved in the war and demonstrated a good level of intigrations although far from the standards we would except today. Most telling is the choice by the IWGC of a stone grave marked with appropriate religious symbol rather than the ranks of crosses that are typical of our allies cemeteries.

Andy Robertshaw April 14th, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Thanks so much Andy, that’s really interesting and very helpful.

Maria Lewis April 14th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

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